I posted about Runfostermama freaking out over her pre-homestudy and planning to cancel here knowing good and well that in order to cancel she’d have to get a hold of the homefinding case worker and that wasn’t going to happen. So she wasn’t able to cancel. And he no-showed. So she took a written note and left it at the foster agency which led to a call from the case worker, to too-much-info-about-his-personal-life (but I’m not one to talk), a denial of knowing about the appointment and a reschedule for next week.
In the meantime, Runfostermama SWEARS she’s ready for the homestudy, she has no hesitations about taking Clementine’s siblings and she keeps shopping for them and texting me her purchases.
Tonight Runfostermama got an ‘emergency’ call from the foster agency whereby she was told that all of the homefinding department was now gone (they were all pretty much gone for various reasons anyway) and this new person was in charge and she asked "Why don’t you have the kids yet?" So this all may go down very fast now. This new case worker (or whatever her position is) gave her email address (!!!) and has since text her a bazillion times tonight. Very exciting!
I’m working on taking Clementine, Sandy and Asia to Puerto Rico for Clementine’s 1st birthday in February. She’s half Puerto Rican and Puerto Rican’s celebrate 1st birthday’s in a big way. I think that skipping a party and going down there will be my interpretation of going big.
I just want beach, sun, napping and book without fur, pop-up pictures or music.
This morning I was on my way to a new facility for work. I fell asleep and woke up at the end of the G train in Queens. Then, I fell asleep again and ended up at the other end of the G in Brooklyn. I finally got out and hailed one of the new green taxis. Going to bed early.
As the supervisor and case worker were leaving, I pointed out a photo of Jacket (to be fair, it’s on the back of our front door) and was all "Look, I have her tattooed on my arm!". He must think I’m cra———zy.
I tried going to bed, but for whatever reason, I feel obligated to confess this part that’s bothering me most of all. The very nice, new supervisor who visited tonight awkwardly asked how ‘culturally competent’ I think I am. This is code for, you’re a (assumedly) white woman with a black child and that’s some heavy shit that you better not be ignoring.
My response was genuine and overly enthusiastic "Gosh, I’m learning something new EVERY day." He liked that and I could have, should have, stopped there. I talked about having worked in black neighborhoods, serving a black community and with most of my colleagues being black for the past 13 years in New York City. I pointed out the (not always obvious to case workers) that I live in a predominately black neighborhood and the support from Asia and her family I receive.
And I should have stopped there but my mouth kept running. I talked about a time last week when Asia’s friend was over and we were all watching scandal. Asia’s friend said "[Kerry Washington] is giving every side girl in the pink houses* a dream". Now when I write this, it makes more sense but my white friend who was here also didn’t understand. Asia had to explain to us what side-girl (mistress) meant and pink houses (projects).
After the supervisor and our case worker left, I text the case worker "Omg, did I just cite my ‘cultural competence’ as knowing what the ‘side girl in the pink houses’ meant?"
Bring on the hate mail. I’m pretty sure I know almost everything you’re going to say. You’re totally right, and I deserve it.
The supervisor’s response was that he tells the case worker that she’s just like Olivia Pope but without any scandal and I agreed. I also rambled about how I’m finding a nice Jewish community "With some lesbian moms and adopted black kids" to which the case worker said something about liking me because I keep it real. But it’s a reality check for me. I need to take it down a hundred notches.
Learning about a culture is so different than creating and nurturing a culture for a baby that has only ever lived a totally different one from their primary caregiver (aka me). So much to figure out…
*Projects nickname changed because it’s hyper-local.
Clementine’s Early Intervention IFSP meeting and service determination really was as arbitrary as I was warned. My impression was that it’s the equivalent of getting pre-authorization from your insurance company. A doctor tells you you need surgery and then it’s your job to convince a bureaucrat of this.
I won’t use “city official” in quotes anymore because she really introduced herself as that. And she actually said she’d be “authorizing services” even though she’s not a clinician, hasn’t ever met Clementine and didn’t even read any of her many paged evaluation. I think the meeting went well, but I don’t know how it was supposed to go, or what if any fighting I was supposed to do.
The city official started off pretty tough. She was EXACTLY as I imagined her to be. I lucked out by changing the tone straight away with “Want to see Clementine’s photo with Santa?” She probably doesn’t get that a lot. And then of course, Clementine’s smile absolutely slayed her. Also a giant plus was that one of the clinician’s who actually assessed Clementine was able to be the clinician representative (sometimes it’s just whatever clinician is available- they’re there to help interpret the assessment- not that we looked at it). The whole meeting boiled down to “Mom, what’s your concerns?” Nevermind what the assessments said (although they served the predominant function of determining eligibility), it was a test on what I knew. Fortunately, the attending clinician is excellent, she remembered Clementine and she rattled off the lingo necessary to convey the needs represented in the assessment.
The meeting was friendly and toward the end I as I was talking to the clinician I saw the city official whispering numbers to the coordinator who was typing everything up. “Is that the number of days she’ll be getting physical therapy?” I called out. “Yes, I’m authorizing this and this.” I didn’t argue. All of my plans to ask about “outcome data compared to frequency of services” and “best practices”….out the window. The clinician nodded at me and later said that I got a ‘good package’. One part of Clementine’s services is at the minimum that one of the clinician warned me to fight against but the city official added “I usually don’t authorize this much, but…” so how do I argue that? I think Clemmie will be fine, I just want to feel and think that I brought my best mom advocacy to the table. I guess there’s no sticker chart for these things. I’m going to have to get on top of this self-doubt/mom self-doubt at some point.
Longest day ever. And it didn’t even include actual time with the baby ladies which is so sad to me. The case worker showed up to our home visit with her brand new supervisor. Very sweet man, but it added an extra level of Q&A in both directions. Since I’ve had Sandy for more than 13 months, I asked about the 15 month deadline for the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). The response was that the agency won’t be sanctioned so long as a parent is ‘planning’ (euphemism for showing up to something at least once in a while). Exasperated I asked “So she’ll be in foster care forever?” and he responded something to the effect of no more than 3 years or so. And he’s not new to the field. He’s worked at some well respected foster agencies in the city. So, what happened to permanency? And what is ‘sanctioned’? And why do I care? What happened to the actual intent of the act?
Ugh, I know…I’ve ALWAYS been told by EVERYONE that the ASFA is pretty meaningless. But it sounds so official, doesn’t it? I can hope that there’s actually going to be a resolution and that we won’t be in locked-down limbo land forever, right? Right? Then I see Blitzen (fosterwee) with Andrew and Carrie and it totally freaks me out. I want Sandy to be in swim classes and music, not spending all of her time at the foster agency surrounded with people (understandably) screaming and crying and traumatized children having upsetting break-downs. I want us to have freedom to travel outside the city without begging for permission for weeks. Blergh. Yes, tonight I’ll hand you some cheese with my whine.
Asia’s been stranded in the Atlanta airport since last night. I normally could stay home with the Baby Ladies but I have a meeting at work I can’t miss. I’m so fortunate these days because Asia’s mom can fill in, Liz can work from home (she has them now) and Logan is frequently available.
Also today I have Clementine’s Early Intervention meeting (IFSP) which is a very formal sounding meeting with “city officials” and they “determine the frequency of services” (she’s already been assessed as needing and qualifying for some physical and occupational therapy- she’s fine, they’re just gonna work on some muscle strengthening). I have no idea how this works and one clinician told me it’s based on how the official feels when they get out of bed.
Awesome. The only other thing I’ve been told is that I have a right to appeal. In fact, I’ve been told this at each step of the assessment process. Like at least a dozen times. The take-home message is to be prepared for a fight. But I don’t want to fight. Why don’t the clinicians just make a recommendation and we go with that? It all sounds so political and nasty- like foster care all over again.
I’ve been prepped to ‘fight’ and to be honest, I haven’t spent much time on researching it. I’m not an OT or PT and the “city official” does this all day everyday. I’m sure they have a few key phrases that shut it all down (i.e. reassess in 6 months).
Oh, and Sandy has to be at a family visit at exactly the same time. Which is fine if Asia were here, but Liz is going in cold turkey and will get some serious “Who the hell are you?” from Sandy’s family. I have to give her the full explanation of every bump and tiny bruise on Sandy’s body and all of the diaper bag requirements and whatnot. I canNOT have my phone blowing up during Clementine’s meeting.
Fingers crossed that it’ll all go smoothly AND that Asia gets home from Atlanta. She said she misses the girls (so sweet!) but I told her to forget them for now and to party it up in the airport with her friends. She might as well make it fun!
4:45pm update: I have enough writers now, thank you!! If you want to add to this section and credit yourself (I’ll translate your credit- and a personal link if you want- to the final post): http://piratepad.net/ouFmXQOWos
I’m looking to pay a longtime reader to write posts that will help update my blog. One that is an updated FAQ and another that’s a Who’s Who with a list of names (e.g. Asia, Logan, Liz, Deepa). The only catch is that I don’t have time for back-and-forth email messages. A quick coffee shop meeting might work, but may not be necessary.
Eventually, I’m also looking to update the blog format. I’ve tried having friends do it long distance but I’m too visual. I need to stand over a computer and point to things and make weird facial gestures to communicate my point. If you do this kind of thing, live in Brooklyn, and are familiar with my style- give me a shout.
Also, I’m in constant need of photos for my babble posts. These would not be paid, but I’ll definitely credit you and link to any website you’d like. Right now I need a baby with Santa Claus photo. Otherwise, baby anything photos work. We can’t use istock anymore and I’m much more conservative with the baby ladies’ photos on babble than I am here.
my email address is at the google mail: fosterhoodblog
We got our Santa photo at Habana Outpost after some nudging and promises of help from Liz. So glad we went. However, it was a scene from hipster hell. The event was done well- very well (Shout out to the ever patient Mrs. Claus!) but it was packed. Imagine a standing room only bar, and hand everyone a baby. Now hand Rebecca two. But don’t serve any alcohol. Or water.
If you have baby fever, allow me to cure you by inviting you to attend with me next year. You’ll be knocking down your doctor’s door in the morning to get the 10 year IUD. As with any well run NYC event, there were several steps so that you don’t murder someone by having to wait in line. After signing in, find a place to park your stroller. Take out your already screaming children. Find Mrs. Claus, push past 25 people, accidentally step on babies’ toes, artwork and a crayon that makes you slide and fall into an already unraveling family of 5 (very rare to see a family with more than 2 kids in nyc they should be allowed to the front line of everything). Give Mrs. Claus your ticket- tell her you’re the lesbian couple (it’s just easier- Liz didn’t care) with a black and a white baby and head up to the arts and crafts bar to let your children eat stickers on top of normal children making Christmas cards. Wait an hour. Realize that parents are getting in a line and bullying their way past the ticket procedure and up to Santa. Join them. Look like a saint when Mrs. Claus calls your name and then asks if the asshole dad can take his family ahead of you. Give Mrs. Claus a high-five wink when she says “Merry Christmas!” to the asshole dad. When called, throw Clementine at Santa because we all know she’s going to love a man who looks like a giant stuffed animal. Begin 17 step desensitization program with Sandy who has no intention of being near Santa. Follow the photographer’s directions to abandon intervention and just get in the damn photo myself. Done. Grab Clemmie and Sandy and carry them over the crowd like a tray of drinks. Watch as they spill all over. Find stroller missing. Be ungrateful for valet stroller parking. Retrieve stroller. Toss raisins at starving Baby Ladies. Wrestle them into stroller. Make lots of promises of milk and cookies at home. Have them both spit at you.
Debate whether or not it’s worth waiting for the dude to bring us our photos. Dude is cute so decide to wait. Watch as dude tells your child she has attitude. She does. What can I do? Try not to scratch dude’s eyes. Tell Liz to fuck the gift bags and it’s procedure. Allow Liz to convince you it’s all about the gift bags. Go across street to retrieve gift bags. Clementine’s Christmas gift bag happens to be full of Hanukkah stickers. Laugh. Walk the mile back home.
Sandy woke-up and I was cuddling her back to sleep when she stuck her finger so far up my nose it started gushing with blood. I have weird baby injuries all over my body- marks on my fingers from Clemmie’s playful but sharp teeth, alien abduction bruising on the inside of my arms from Clemmie’s tiny fingers pinching the hell out of me. Then there’s the accidental head-butting, hair pulling, eyelid rolling episodes…. Why don’t I ever hear news stories of babies accidentally killing their parents? It HAS to happen. Like the time Sandy pushed her hand so hard into my neck I almost lost consciousness. And I’m healthy!
When Liz came home from taking Clementine to her birth family visit, we spent about an hour talking about how cool her they all are. It is so nice to get an outside opinion- especially from someone not used to the foster care world. Liz gushed about Clementine’s mom and dad, about how affectionate the were with Clemmie, how kind they were to her (chasing after her to make sure she got a piece of cake), how well the kids respond to them etc, etc. I’m obviously biased, as they gave me their child to raise, so I love hearing other people’s impressions.
I hope Clementine’s parents will want to keep up monthly visits once all of the kids are out of foster care and we don’t have the system and it’s building as a home base. I wonder, will they be comfortable coming to see Clemmie swim at the YMCA, or would they rather meet in a familiar park, or even come to our place?
If I ever were to work in child welfare after all of this experience, I think I’d want to create something like a “visitation doula”. Okay, just kidding about the doula bit- a word being used for everything these days. Let’s call is a visitation consultant, or just a facilitator of adoptees’ families. With most adoptions being open these days, and with adoptions coming from the complications in families that led to foster care, supervision by a licensed profession could be a bridge that may be necessary for newly adoptive parent to feel comfortable with visits. Adoptive and birth parents are totally on their own once an adoption is complete. What if a birth parent shows up drunk? Or gets angry? Or says something to your child that crosses the adoptive parents’ boundaries? I (or you- anyone- feel free to take this idea and run with it) could be the go between to negotiate the issues that arise. Not to mention, the possible changes in visits that will inevitably be needed at different stages of the child’s life.
What I normally see is if an adoptive parent get uncomfortable they shut-down visits all together. However, I think that if they knew a licensed professional would be present to intercede on the spot during visits, in addition to negotiating all of the details (e.g. gifts okay? speaker phone calls to relatives in prison?). Also, the visitation consultant idea should benefit and advocate for the birth parents and their wishes. Especially since sometimes communicated the small things can be hard (e.g. Does she know about her half-sister living in an institution? Can she write her a letter?) Ultimately, the goal being to refocus everyone on the needs and feelings of the adopted child.
I think such a facilitator could help in a lot of birth family/adoptive family communications. It could maybe even be powerful. In my perfect world, it would be a post-adoption service offered by every state in foster-to-adopt cases.
On Sunday we went to our PJ Library synagogue to attend a Chanukkah party for kids age 1-6 and a book fair. It was a bust. There wasn’t so much of a book fair and as soon as we entered I was directed to drop the stroller off in the sanctuary. I should have just left then but I tried anyway.
I was already wearing Clemmie and Sandy was in an umbrella stroller. As soon as I let her out she was climbing the walls, stairs and pulling both the cold and hot tabs incessantly on a water cooler. By the time I finally corraled us to the event space, the Chanukkah celebration was over. We sat on the floor for a while and ate apple chips (baked by Logan).
Getting Sandy back through the building eventually required me to carry her. Carrying both of the Baby Ladies is a bit much these days and feeling like the obvious goy in the room, I did not make the most graceful exit. Oddly enough, we had to race to our WIC appointment which was in an opposite Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. From the riches, most liberal Jewish community I flew straight into the poorest and most conservative. It’s why New York City feels like Epcot Center to me sometimes. Every few feet it’s a completely different culture.
Asia’s mom and Logan have the baby ladies and I’ve been shopping. Just stopped by the Dominican hair place (that’s what it’s called) thinking I’d find Asia. I did and I showed her the sorbet menorah cookies I bought.
I’m shopping online for an electric menorah. I’d like one that is brass or gold colored but these only seem to come with orange lights. I like the blue lights (reminds me of all of the Jewish menorahs viewable in people’s windows back home in Florida) - but they only come with the silver. Is this totally random or a thing?
Asia said that we need to get some Spanish music for Clementine because while she was watching the American Music Awards, Clementine started rocking out to Jennifer Lopez. Just in case I started to forget that she’s not just Jewish, she’s also half Puerto Rican.
Nonetheless, I’m in the middle of googling “best electric menorah”. Candles aren’t allowed in foster homes (or at least my agency’s foster home).